How to get from Buenos Aires to Santiago de Chile by land
I want to get from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago de Chile by land. What is the recommended route and what are the alternatives? Aprox. how much it costs and how long does it takes? Where can I book tickets and find schedules? What are the main problems that can be encountered?
There are some direct buses from Buenos Aires to Santiago de Chile. For example, CATA Internacional runs a daily bus, on weekdays only (Mon-Fri), which leaves at 17:00 from BA (Retiro) and arrives next day at approximately 12:30 (= duration ~19.5 hours). The price is $AR 900 / USD ~105 (semicama without service) or $AR 1050 / USD ~125 (cama ejecutivo) as of Nov 2014.
Besides the Argentine CATA, two Chilean companies run direct Santiago – BA buses on some days of the week: Pullman del Sur (details) and Buses Ahumada. Prices on Pullman del Sur from CH$ 55,000 (USD ~100).
Alternatively, take the bus to Mendoza, Argentina (12+ buses daily; 13-16 hours, USD 60–110 depending on company and comfort level), located quite close to the Chilean border, and then continue from there to Santiago (about 8 buses daily, 6-7 hours, USD 40-65). The mountain pass and border crossing is called Los Libertadores.
I haven't taken this trip to Santiago myself (only to Mendoza), but I'm fairly sure that the bus is your best (and maybe only) bet, and that you won't encounter any major problems. The coaches in Argentina and Chile are comfortable and reliable. (For a long trip, I recommend investing in cama suite or whatever the best option is called, to be able to sleep better.) You can see timetables and buy tickets (with credit card) online at Plataforma 10, or you can visit the Retiro main bus terminal in Buenos Aires [map] for the same.
By the way, Mendoza is a nice place known especially for its wines, and some of the highest peaks of the Andes nearby, and stopping there for a few days wouldn't be a bad idea.
Edit: updated for November 2014. The prices in local currency keep rising a lot (for example, Mendoza–Santiago trip went from 120 to 230 pesos during just five months in 2013). The Argentine peso is weakening at the same time, however, so visitors do not feel it as badly.
(Oh, locals kept warning me about thieves in/around the Retiro terminal, so I guess I could give the same warning. Keep an eye on your belongings.)
I just became aware of the site Busbud, which lists **three** direct connections between BA - Santiago (by Cata Internacional, Buses Ahumada, and Pullman del Sur). Price info seems a little out-of-date though.